They’ll say it’s not about the money. But it’s very much about the money.
The Nationals have mapped out Stephen Strasburg’s September schedule, and in what should come as a surprise to no one, the plan is for him to keep pitching at Nationals Ballpark.
Strasburg, who made his season debut Tuesday against the Dodgers, was already set to pitch on four days’ rest Sunday against the Astros in D.C. He’ll make his subsequent two starts on five days’ rest Sept. 17 against the Marlins and Sept. 23 against the Braves.
If all three outings go as hoped, the Nats said there’s a chance he could start Sept. 28 in Florida in what will be the team’s season finale. Still, that’s not part of the plan at this point.
Unless Strasburg makes that start, all four of his September outings will have come at home. And who can blame the Nats for trying to work things out that way? Half the reason they made the announcement now is to try to sell tickets for those dates. There just isn’t much other reason for Nationals fans to head to the ballpark at the moment.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.